Army bans tried members from wearing uniforms and medals in civilian court

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The military prohibits its members from wearing their uniforms and medals in civilian court while defending themselves against criminal charges.

The move comes after CBC News reported two months ago that survivors of military sexual trauma were offended by a highly decorated military commander’s decision to wear his uniform and medals during his ongoing sexual assault trial. .

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the former head of Canada’s vaccine task force, was charged last year with one count of sexual assault in connection with an alleged incident in 1988. He has pleaded not guilty.

Since Fortin’s trial began in September, he has defended himself in court wearing his uniform and ten medals on his chest.

A spokesperson for Fortin – who did not want to be named due to fears of online retaliation – said in September that Fortin was presumed innocent and that it was appropriate for him, as a serving officer, to wear his uniform in court.

But some survivors of sexual trauma described Fortin’s decision to wear his medals as an act of intimidation that would have a silent effect on survivors.

They said that the uniform is a powerful symbol of the institution and that by wearing it, a complainant might feel like he is facing the entire Canadian Armed Forces in court.

In response to complaints and questions from the media, the Department of National Defense said in September that the military would revise its dress code policy.

At that time, the department said that servicemen were allowed to wear their uniforms in civilian court – but that was an individual choice for which they alone were responsible.

LOOK | Military commander criticized for wearing full uniform in civilian trial:

Military commander slammed for wearing full uniform in civilian trial

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin drew criticism after wearing his full military uniform, including 10 medals, during his trial in civil court for sexual assault.

Canadian Armed Forces leadership has now told all service members that effective December 1, they will only be permitted to wear their uniforms in civilian criminal court if they are testifying on behalf of the forces or the Crown in a military capacity. .

If a military member wants an exemption from the new rule, they must submit a written request and obtain approval from the chain of command, the directive says.

The new policy is consistent with other police forces in Canada and allied military forces, according to the directive to the military.

“The cultural evolution of the CAF is an ongoing process,” DND spokesperson Daniel Le Bouthillier said in a press release. “Over the past year, the Defense Team has been committed to using integrated, transparent and trauma-informed approaches in its cultural growth initiatives.

The civilian justice system prosecutes a range of offenses involving military personnel, including murder, manslaughter, and sexual assault.

INJ20K, a volunteer-based group of military sexual trauma survivors, said in a press release that it had raised concerns about dress policy with the military and was “satisfied” with the decision.

“Restricting the wearing of a CAF uniform in court, except when required, is the absolute right decision,” wrote NJI20K Co-Chair Sam Samplonius. (DND has confirmed that the Navy covered travel expenses for NJI20K members to attend training sessions.)

Fortin is due back in court on Dec. 5, when the judge assigned to his case is expected to render a decision.

Under the new policy, Fortin will have to wear civilian clothes to his trial for the first time.

Fortin and his attorney said they would not comment on matters related to his trial as long as it continues.

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